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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Trump insists UAE will buy F-35s after Israel agreement

Trump said the sale was now "under review" [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 August, 2020

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Israel, which uses the stealth aircraft to carry out operational attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, regards the sale as a threat to its regional military superiority.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday the US is considering selling advanced American F-35 warplanes - the same model procured by the Israeli Air Force - to the United Arab Emirates, despite the objections of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump told reporters at a White House news conference that the Emiratis had expressed interest in buying "quite a few" of the stealth fighter jets.

Israel uses the fifth generation combat aircraft to carry out operational attacks against Iranian targets in Syria.

Trump said the sale of the F-35s were "under review" given the new dynamic between Israel and the UAE since the two nations agreed to normalise relations last week. 

Perhaps just as important, Trump said, is that the UAE can afford to buy the planes.

"They have the money and they would like to order quite a few F-35s," Trump said. "It's the greatest fighter jet in the world, as you know, by stealth, totally stealth." he added.

"They'd like to buy F-35s, we’ll see what happens," Trump continued. "It's under review, but they made a great advance in peace in the Middle East." he said.

Netanyahu said Tuesday he would oppose the sale despite the historic UAE deal after an Israeli newspaper reported that the normalisation accord that Trump brokered included language to supply the Arab Gulf nation with advanced US weapons systems.

The Yediot Ahronot daily, citing American and Emirati sources, reported that Israeli acquiescence to the sales had clinched the deal for the Emiratis. 

Further, it reported that Netanyahu had made the deal behind the back of the Israeli defense establishment and kept Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, both former military chiefs, in the dark about it.

In a statement, Netanyahu's office said the prime minister has opposed the sale of F-35s and other advanced weapons to any country in the Middle East, including Arab countries that have peace agreements with Israel.

Maintaining Israel's regional military supremacy has been a hallmark of Israeli policy for decades, and Israel has used its close ties with Washington to ensure that certain sophisticated weapons are not sold to neighboring countries. 

The UAE has long been reported to be interested in acquiring U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter jets and attack drones like those the Israelis have.

Read also: Could the US reward the UAE with F-35 jets in return for normalisation with Israel?

Netanyahu said Gantz had been updated on his opposition to F-35 sales just weeks ago. 

But as part of his various corruption scandals, Netanyahu has been accused by critics of bypassing Israel's defense establishment in regards to a German sale of advanced submarines to Egypt.

In security-obsessed Israel, confirmation that military-related strings are attached to the deal could temper some of the excitement that has widely surrounded it thus far.

Gantz seemed to question Netanyahu's denial in a televised statement, saying he was only informed of last week's blockbuster accord after the fact. 

Gantz, who also serves as the alternative prime minister and is Netanyahu’s chief coalition partner, is supposed to replace Netanyahu as premier next year. 

Gantz vowed to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge at any price.

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